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Associative Democracy: New Forms of Economic and Social Governance



Associative Democracy: New Forms of Economic and Social Governance

Paul Hirst

ISBN: 978-0-745-60952-2 January 1994 Polity 232 Pages


In this book Paul Hirst makes a major contribution to democratic thinking, advocating "associative democracy"; the belief that human welfare and liberty are best served when as many of the affairs of society as possible are managed by voluntary and democratically self-governing associations.

1. A Changed Conjuncture.

2. Associative Principles and Democratic Reform.

3. Associational Ethics and Logics of Collective Action.

4. Associative Democracy and Economic Governance.

5. Current Realities and Economic Reform.

6. Thick Welfare, Thin Collectivism.

7. An Associational and Confederal Welfare State.


Suggestions for Further Reading.


'Who speaks against democracy? No one. But unthinking consensus is a danger; turning a still novel concept into a received idea. By contrast Paul Hirst shows how difficult and important the term is, how contested its content still remains, and how significant are its links to the economy as well as the polity. His major study confirms that democracy has only just arrived. Associative Democracy will be a benchmark for the debate over where democracy can, and should, lead human society.' Anthony Barnett, Co-ordinator Charter 88

'This is an important and invigorating contribution to ongoing debates about welfare and governance in contemporary Western societies. It deserves to be widely read.' Political Studies Association

'Representative government and corporate bureaucracy have dominated the 20th century. In this book Paul Hirst has the bold ambition of reviving the alternative 19th century traditions of pluralism, co-operation and voluntary association to complement if not replace them. But he modifies these alternatives both in theory and by reference to recent institutional experiment. It is an attractive prospect, delineated with force and learning.' James Cornford, Institute for Public Policy Research

'This very clearly written and original book should play a key role in the increasingly intense, and hopefully productive, argument about the revitalisation of democratic systems.' Sociology

'Hirst defends his proposal with commendable confidence and vigour. It has a pleasing plausibility, and it is good to see genuinely radical suggestions being advanced at the present time.' Radical Philosophy

'... This persuasive book, ... full of sharp insights.' British Journal of Sociology

* Associative Democracy outlines a new and exciting theory of democracy.
* This volume is a major contribution to democratic thinking and political thought.
* Paul Hirst has contributed extensively to debates in political and social theory over more than two decades; this is his most important and original statement.